Resettlement in the community - CYPN

Resettlement can be a worrying time for some children and young people and planning for their release should ideally start as soon as they start their custodial sentence so that the services and support they need are available when and where they need them. Transitioning young people back into the community is a shared endeavour, it’s important that their needs are met in a joined-up and holistic way while they are in custody and when they leave to enable a full and successful reintegration into society. Where appropriate children and young people should be involved in this process. Finding suitable accommodations is one of the main difficulties we face in this area due to a national shortage of suitable accommodation alongside other significant pressures in the youth justice system.

The latest youth justice statistics published by the Ministry of Justice outline many of these, perhaps most notably is the proportion of children in custody on remand which has now gone up to 45%, the highest on record and almost double the proportion 10 years ago. For those who end up in custody, better support during their sentence as well as ongoing support to help them settle back into their communities and break the cycle of reoffending is key. Last year, the Youth Justice Board announced details of the London Accommodation Pathfinder aims to accommodate 16- and 17-year-old boys for up to six months as an alternative to custody. The aim is for this to reduce the number of young people going into custody by providing a more therapeutic, rehabilitation-focused living environment. Although this is currently being trialled in London, it is vital that we can learn quickly from the successes of the pathfinder and we urge the government to roll it out across the country at pace where this is the case.

The secure estate needs to be made more localised, more responsive to children’s needs and above all more compassionate. The levels of violence between children, with staff and self-harm in custody are high, and rising, suggesting needs are routinely not being met. The custodial estate is shrinking and this has contributed to the growing level of violence within settings but also means that children are frequently placed some distance from their local community; more than a third of children (38%) are placed 25 – 49 miles from home, with 15% placed over 100 miles from home (YJB, 2023). A number of factors need to be taken into account when placing a child such as the needs and risks associated with the individual child or a limited number of places available, however, we need a far greater focus nationally on keeping children closer to their communities, where appropriate.

Positive family relationships, access to education and training and a sense of connection are all drivers for reducing reoffending rates, so greater physical distance adds additional barriers to resettlement efforts and planning. We must be more ambitious for these children with a greater focus on their underlying needs, their vulnerabilities or their capacity for change.

ADCS Vice President Andy Smith

This column first appeared in CYPNow on 30 August - Resettlement of Children: Key policy developments | CYP Now

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